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Writin’ Ain’t Nothin’ but Talk Wrote Down

By August 21, 2020 No Comments

My father used to say, “Writin’ ain’t nothin’ but talk wrote down.” I have to admit that when I taught writing in some of my classes, I actually quoted him. People are good talkers, but many are unable to make the shift from talking to writing.

The interesting thing about speaking (and communication in general) is that it has to follow patterns and rules or the brain cannot make sense of it.

For example: dog the a cat tree chased up the.  Doesn’t make any sense, does it?  You have to rearrange the words.

The cat chased the dog up a tree.  Wait a minute!  That doesn’t make sense either.  It’s a good sentence and we can visualize what’s going on, but is it likely to happen?

The tree chased the cat up the dog? Still not right.  In fact, it’s getting worse.

What would you actually say?

The dog chased the cat up a tree.   Of course!  Just write that down.

As children we quickly internalize the rules for speaking. If a child says, “I goed to town,” Mom quickly corrects with “I went to town.” The child has no idea he or she is learning the past tense of an irregular verb. She simply repeats “I went to town” and seldom makes the same mistake more than three or four more times.

The point is we learn to speak in patterns that follow very specific rules when we are very young. If we don’t follow those patterns, no one can understand what we’re trying to say.

Writing takes those rules we naturally learned as children and adds a few more to them. We have to spell words correctly and add punctuation in order to make ourselves understood through the written word.

For example:  The dog chased the cat up a tree.  The sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period.  The words are all spelled correctly.  We don’t have to worry about these things when speaking.

How many times have you listened to a good story teller and said, “You ought to write those stories down.” The speaker ducks his head and says, “Nah, I never was a good writer.”

Nonsense!  If someone taped those stories, threw in some spelling and punctuation, a wonderful book would be captured for thousands to read.

“Writin’ ain’t nothin’ but talk wrote down.”

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